Part 2: Because of or Despite
The theme I am discovering as I create this account is shoving down what I actually felt at the time.
I lived the past 10 years shoving down the strong emotions. I see where a big part of it came from. Over the past two years I have been allowing myself to feel again. Tears at times, ecstasy at others. Anger, embarrassment. All of it.
Reconnecting to that emotional part, the intuitive part, my inner self.
I knew one person on the bus with me, I’ll call him Tim in this post. He was 17, also a traveller, and had been in Indiana also. He had been traveling for more than a year and agreed to teach me about being “homeless” in California in exchange for the $100 bus ticket.
As I step off the bus, it’s dark, and it’s colder than I imagined. I follow Tim on another bus to Golden Gate Park. I see the lights of the city in the distance as the bus arrives to the park.
Where are we going to sleep I ask? He doesn’t know. I am instantly terrified. Realizing that he really knows very little more than I do. Realizing I am truly on my own here. Realizing I just took a bus for 5 days to a place where I know no one, nothing, and have no shelter. My stomach knots, I want to puke, I want to cry, I don’t. I just say right, Where to next? I need to find somewhere to sleep. I shove it all down and start walking, looking for an alleyway.
I get a piece of cardboard, lay that down and put the sleeping bag on top. There are some other kids in the alley as well. Tim says I better wake up early before the police come to do their rounds. I fall asleep with some tears, the terror surfacing and then pushing it down again and again. Waking up many times in the night.
The sun comes up and we leave before the police come for their rounds. The only people on the street early morning joggers and other homeless. I go to a park where everyone is gathering. Many people have coffee from a local McDonalds. I get a rolled cigarette from a woman there.
Chatting with her about what the day will hold, I realize there is nothing happening here. she invites me to “spange” with her. To “spare change” and so we set up on the sidewalk. I get present to the looks from the passers by. I realize the shame and the simultaneous righteousness I feel. How odd it is to be on the other side of society now.
I get enough for a slice of pizza. Night comes again and this time I go to another park. I make it through another night.
After a couple more nights spent sleeping on the street, meeting other people doing the same thing, and spare changing or asking people for money during the day. I never went hungry, I never sold my body for sex, and I was quite safe the majority of the time.
About 4 days after getting to san Francisco, I decided to start traveling around the state. I am planning to go to Berkley and walking to the train I hear the people in front of me talking about Berkley. I end up going with them, 6 people in a van. I learn so much about the travel life in the next hours on the short drive. In Berkley I meet a stripper for the first time. And a group of people who live in tree houses.
Two of the guys from the van plus their dog Banjo are planning to keep traveling south and I decide to leave Berkley with them.
I hitch-hike for the first time. I hop trains. One night on a train stands out. I hid in a grain car, holding the edge, my feet dangling down the sloped edge as the guard goes past. I try to pull myself out, and my pack is so heavy I can’t. Thankfully “Cameron” one of the guys is already out on the edge and I manage to silently get his attention. He helps pull me out.
Later I am on the porch of a grain car, leaning off the side, holding the ladder as I suspend my butt over the edge to pee. It’s a nearly full moon and I am looking across the porch at the moonlit grape fields of California. I see the lights on inside the small farmers houses on the edges of the fields and the idyllic mountain behind. I experience total freedom for a moment.
There were many moments like those after that first week. I felt the total freedom that every day when we got up, I could go anywhere I like.